Elvira Muñoz, AECOM Interior Design Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, shares how AECOM's workplace culture of creativity helps her build a fabulous future for the world of Interior Design


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AECOM Interior Designer Elvira Muñoz enjoys culture of creativity

AECOM Interior Designer Elvira Muñoz enjoys culture of creativity

Elvira Muñoz is a Director at AECOM in the Interior Design practice. Elvira joined AECOM as an Interior Architect in 1988. Fast forward to 2002 and she started leading the Interior Design team in Spain.

Fast forward again to 2014 and Elvira became Interior Design Director for Continental Europe, and then in 2019 Interior Design Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Elvira recently won the Luminary award for being one of the best speakers at the recent Coronet Summit in Madrid.

The award process involved Elvira preparing and submitting a proposal: “I submitted the proposal four days before the due date and received the applicant number 1472. Only 52 people were selected to speak, and I was one of them! I rehearsed the speech for an hour every day for three weeks. For most of the speakers English was their first language; Spanish is my first language, so this made the award an extra big achievement for me.”

AECOM luminary award

Elvira will be speaking at and receiving the Luminary award at the Core Net Global Summit which will be taking place in Amsterdam later in the year.

A typical day for Elvira

Elvira explains that she challenges herself and her team to constantly think differently and approach projects in a more creative way, through constant research, reading, benchmarking, brainstorming and learning. “I listen actively to what clients think they need and figure out what they are really asking for and requiring,” says Elvira.

Elvira and her team are currently working on a new vertical campus which is over 5 million square feet for a higher education provider, and the digital transformation of a business park for a large Spanish security services provider. “We have just completed a project for a new Industry X.0 working environment for start-ups, entrepreneurs, consultants and industry leaders in Bilbao,” says Elvira.

Elvira AECOM Bilbao

Finding talent and making it grow and shine is particularly important to Elvira: “I teach, inspire, develop, and provide challenges and opportunities. I encourage handcraftsmanship, attention to detail, quality and consistency in relation to our design proposals.”

Elvira also ensures that her clients are taken care of, and she devotes time to hunting for new potential clients and identifying new sectors and possibilities.

Elvira regularly organises workshops and activities to make employees and clients approach issues differently. And when Elvira is not busy in the office, she is attending fairs and visiting industries to identify new trends, discover new materials and new solutions.

Elvira shares her Interior Design knowledge

Eight years ago, Elvira partnered with IE University, a top international University in Spain, to help structure a Masters degree in “Strategic Design of Space: Innovation for work, retail and learning environments.”

After helping to develop the program, Elvira had the opportunity to become a Professor and teach students on the course. The course is delivered online, and students attend from all over the world. The feedback from the students has been very positive; Elvira has been voted by the students as “Best Teacher” three times.

Elvira AECOM Best Teacher

Recently Elvira has been chosen to be the Director for the Masters degree and her commitment to the programme is apparent: “The Masters degree is aligned with the business space (not just the aesthetical space) and has a real strategic focus.”

Elvira regularly talks about the career opportunities that are available, and when asked what skills are most valued for positions in Interior Design Elvira says: “Passion, imagination, curiosity, attention to detail, communication skills, active listening, negotiation abilities, and sketching abilities.”

Elvira is passionate about the culture at AECOM

Elvira is passionate about the working culture at AECOM and describes it as one of knowledge sharing, supporting and challenging each other, and celebrating success: “AECOM offers a culture of creativity and review of the validity of our design solutions.”

In terms of how Elvira and her team contributes to the bigger picture at AECOM, she comments: “Hopefully we bring creativity, common sense and a sense of humour to all the departments that collaborate with us; and a passion for meaningful, creative, profitable and futureproof design solutions.”

AECOM design solutions

Challenges and opportunities in the Interior Design industry

The biggest challenge, according to Elvira, is that “the Real Estate market and structure is slow and centred on the interests of the key players in the industry; instead of the interests of the users. This paradigm has to change and evolve: from providing land, building on it and then having the users fit in to whatever exists; to providing services that are flexible and versatile and have a balance between capital expenditure and operational expenditure, with the advantage to the end user.”

Elvira continues to say that “the biggest opportunity is with the boom of WeWorks and the shared economy. The paradigm of the Real Estate markets will change to one of reuse, rebrand and reimagine in relation to our cities and our buildings.”

Elvira sees a fabulous future for the world of Interior Design

“Everyone is talking about the user experience, the visitor journey, the holistic approach, the overarching theme, the need for less physical space but one that is more meaningful in hotels, retail outlets, workspaces, universities and so forth, and this is all tackled by the work of Interior Design. I see a fabulous future ahead of us. We should reinvent uses for derelict buildings; we should reuse what already exists, providing it with a second life…long live Interior Design!”

Final thoughts from Elvira

AECOM Elvira design

Elvira shares her best piece of career advice: “When a client starts explaining to others your ideas and proposals as their own, you know you have taken the big step forward: they now trust you and recognize (although not openly) the value you bring to them; and value and novelty are addictive!”

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